Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gulf Shores State Park

The Gulf Shores area of Alabama is very familiar to our family. For many years, my employer sent me to an annual convention in that area and the family always went along to enjoy the beach. While we knew about the area and the convention hotel down the street, we had never visited Gulf Shores State Park. This trip was a first for both us and Rosie, our Airstream trailer.

Gulf Shores, as you would expect, is along the Gulf of Mexico. While the Gulf shoreline has received lots of negative coverage during the BP oil spill disaster, the lingering effects of that event are no longer visible to the casual viewer.
The Gulf Shores State Park Beach

To put things into perspective, we show up the weekend of Labor Day and the park is quickly filling up with campers. Our assigned site was in one of the secondary loops. By that, I mean that we were not in the prime spots on the water.

I wasn't sure what to expect here because the park frequently falls victim to the Gulf's hurricanes. It seems to me that every time the State of Alabama repairs the most recent hurricane damage, another storm comes along and tears up the park. 

On our visit, we found that the park has a swimming pool and it was open. The park has a larger than normal camp store and it was open. The park has several playgrounds for children and they were open. The park has tennis courts and this area was also open. Thus, we didn't see any storm damage in these areas.
The boardwalk to the beach

That's not to say that the park didn't have any storm damage. The visible damage had to be the lack of trees in the park. I don't think many trees survived the storms. That is a shame because this park can use all of the shade it can get.

As soon as we arrived, we started scouting out better sites on the water. We ended up with a list of several water-front sites where the campers were pulling out before the end of the weekend.

The next morning, we started patrolling the sites we picked as ones we wanted to occupy as soon as the current campers left and discovered that one camper was packing up. We quickly hitched up Rosie then went to the camp headquarters to officially move our site. This was when things started going sour.

One of the volunteers working at the park's office decided that she couldn't help us because she was too busy with some unidentifiable task. After patiently waiting longer than a reasonable amount of time, Becky asked if the "workers" in the office were all volunteers or if a state employee was on duty. It turns out that a state employee was on duty, heard my wife's question and quickly changed our site to one with a beautiful water view.
Rosie's new site along the water

It seems that we always learn something from every Rosie adventure. We quickly learned after moving to consider more factors than view when choosing sites.
The view from Rosie's back window

I mentioned the lack of trees earlier in this posting. No trees translates into no shade and that means Rosie was baking in the hot sun during the day. Rosie has a good air conditioner, but it was unable to keep up with the direct September sun shining on her aluminum skin.

The solution was multiple trips to the store to purchase car window shades. We ended up putting shades in all of Rosie's windows, which blocked the view we moved to enjoy. After talking to our neighbors, we noticed that return campers tended to stay across the street from the water because there was a little shade there and first time visitors to the park took the view over the shade. When we return to this park, we will join our fellow park veterans and choose shade.
Rosie in the direct sun

There is lots to do in this park and we enjoyed riding our bicycles there. One of the interesting events at the park while we were there was a triathlon. We watched the bike element of the triathlon weave through the park that weekend.
Watercolor painted by Becky at Gulf Shores

Watercolor painted by Becky at Gulf Shores

Here are some specifics about the park:
  • This park is huge. We think there are hundreds and hundreds of camping sites in this park.
  • Sites have water and electric connections.
  • Most sites have 20, 30 and 50 amp service.
  • There were multiple dump stations along the park's main road.
  • Bathhouses were adequate and clean. A camper warned us that the showers didn't have hot water. I discovered that the showers had plenty of hot water, but controls worked opposite of what you expected.
  • We were able to watch TV signals from CBS, NBC and several religious TV stations. When the wind was right, we could see Fox. We missed some of the digital channels we enjoy while camping.
  • Expect to find the Rockefeller family in the camp store squandering the family fortune. Keep in mind that there are other shopping opportunities just outside the park and you can afford to pay for the gas on what you save over camp store prices.
  • The park has a large swimming pool and many visitors took advantage of this recreation facility.
  • AT&T provided good 4G service throughout the park.
  • We think the park had WiFi, but it wasn't working while we were there.
While the park is on the Gulf, the campsites are not. If you want to see the Gulf, you need to drive a little to get there.

If you are heading to Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama during the summer, we recommend that you think about finding a campsite with shade. This will help make your time in the park significantly more comfortable.

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